The Possibility of Liminal Colonial Subjecthood

Yayutz Bleyh and the Search for Subaltern Histories in the Japanese Empire

Author: Kirsten L. Ziomek


This article examines whether writing histories of colonial subjects is possible. Traditional colonial histories subsume the colonial subject's individual history under a larger narrative of subjugation, which often does not allow room for people to exist outside the dichotomized role of collaborator/resister. This approach has left a gap in the scholarship for histories of colonial subjects whose lives do not easily fit either category. This article addresses this gap by detailing the life of Yayutz Bleyh, an Atayal woman who became one of the most important participants in the Japanese colonial administration of Aboriginal Affairs in Taiwan. For over six years, the author gathered fragmented pieces of information regarding Yayutz from a multitude of sources – visuals, as well as oral and written materials from inside and outside the colonial archive – in order to sketch the contours of an extraordinary woman and her life. Through the process of filtering these disparate sources, it was the silences regarding certain issues and the discrepancies that emerged among sources that proved to be the most revealing about Yayutz as someone who straddled both the world of the colonizer and the colonized.

Regions: East Asia
Countries: Japan | Taiwan

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© Jeff Kingston